The Atheist Experience on the Kalam Cosmological Argument

by Luke Muehlhauser on October 7, 2010 in Kalam Argument

The Atheist Experience did an episode on the Kalam Cosmological Argument in 2009:

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{ 17 comments… read them below or add one }

RedKing October 7, 2010 at 1:36 pm

I love the Atheist Experience; it played a big part in discovering that I was an atheist, and I’d heartily recommend it to anyone.

That being said, this treatment of the Kalam always struck me as colossally disappointing. Some (anti-)highlights:

-mistaking Paley’s Design argument for a cosmological argument
-not discussing Craig’s standard examples to demonstrate a finite universe (e.g., Hilbert’s hotel)
-not acknowledging or addressing Craig’s argument that the cause must be personal
-haphazard presentation of the argument and refutations bordering on non sequitur (Paley, theories of time, premise 1 and 2, transcendence, creationism, meaningfulness of the God concept, complexity)

Again, love the show, but I remember cringing when I first watched this.


Silas October 7, 2010 at 2:15 pm

Russell Glasser is such a douche. They should have more sympathetic people on the show to promote atheism.


CJ October 7, 2010 at 4:13 pm

I’ve got this show in my iTunes feed, and I remember hearing this one when it came out. This show, along with two or three others, was a big disappointment to me.

Russell and Martin are great guys, but they aren’t the intellectual powerhouses on that show. I have much more respect for the quality of the arguments presented by Matt, Tracie and Jen than anyone else on the show.

Don’t get me wrong, I really like all of them, but Russell and Martin just don’t punch in the same weight class as those three.


Hermes October 7, 2010 at 5:07 pm

Silas, I see no problem with Russell though Tracie should be on more.


Hermes October 7, 2010 at 6:38 pm

Russell mentioned Irreducible Complexity and Behe. Note that is seems that one of Behe’s sons is an atheist;

Excerpt (intro);

IAmA son of Michael Behe, the Catholic biochemist who coined the term “Irreducible Complexity”. I turned away from my family’s Catholic faith two years ago and am now an outspoken atheist. AMA. (self.IAmA)

submitted 13 hours ago by salty914

The title really says it all. The idea of rejecting or even questioning Catholicism was unheard of in my family. Naturally, there was a LOT of social backlash, which I’ll address based on any questions from my fellow Redditors.

One request I’d like to make is to please not let this turn into a “fuck yeah atheism” circlejerk. I’d really enjoy explaining to atheists and theists alike (especially Christians, that being the religion I rejected) why I reached the conclusion that religion was not credible after seventeen years of rather aggressive indoctrination.

Interesting reading.


Hermes October 7, 2010 at 7:01 pm

The caller at ~1:05 was painful to listen to. They should have killed it off much earlier. At 1:14.30, Martin kindly lets him go.


lukeprog October 7, 2010 at 7:46 pm

Yeah, I didn’t post his because I thought it was a definitive refutation of the kalam argument, certainly.


ernest carl October 8, 2010 at 12:53 am

The kalam argument presented by these guys made me cringe a little bit as well. I don’t often listen or watch these kinds of shows; I don’t have the time. And while I’ve read some Michael Martin, Baggini, Everitt, Russell, Nietzsche etc.(but many more psychologists than philosophers)… I just find that I don’t really care that much about these high level discussions on the ‘cosmological argument’. Reading literature turned me into an atheist (e.g. Mark Twain, Sartre, Kafka, Marquez, Kundera, KJV Bible, Koran, fairy/folk tales from around the world). I’m afraid my interest in serious science and philosophy only came in later after reading some Feynman. :)


Muto October 8, 2010 at 3:57 am

Sadly, this is quite painful to watch…


Nonchai October 8, 2010 at 6:03 am

why are you posting this if its clear that their arguments are unsatisfactory ?


James Onen October 8, 2010 at 6:14 am

Much as I think all the other co-hosts are nice people and occasionally fun, I find myself seldom interested in listening to the Atheist Experience podcast unless Matt Dilluhunty is on. I usually only download the episodes in which he appears (with good reason, judging from what you can see in the above video). I remember this ‘Kalam’ episode very well. It was awful.


Hermes October 8, 2010 at 6:20 am

why are you posting this if its clear that their arguments are unsatisfactory ?

It’s a blog. If it generates a discussion, and the discussion has any merit, one goal has been met.


Hermes October 8, 2010 at 6:32 am

I miss The Non Prophets, and while Matt D’s great he’s on too much. Jeff Dee, Martin, and Russell as well as Lynnea (in the gap filler episodes) have some good banter. Tracie and Jen haven’t been on The Non-Propohets (?), but AronRa (as a guest) has been and may make an occasional return.

Yet, most of them have blogs or post on the Atheist Experience blog.


Martin October 8, 2010 at 10:52 am

If this wasn’t an hour and a half long, I’d listen to it and have fun tearing it to shreds with my extremely rudimentary knowledge of Kalam.

I guess this means that throwing your reasoning skills to the wind in favor of a preconceived worldview is not something that Christians have a monopoly on, eh?


Hermes October 8, 2010 at 11:13 am

Martin, it’s a live public access TV show that aims at a general audience of theists and atheists, and is not a formal discussion of philosophy. As an artifact of that live public access TV show, they also rebroadcast the live show and keep an archive of past shows.

Since one of the goals of the show is to promote discussion between and among theists and atheists they have to limit the detail for that general audience. When the callers ramp up the rigor and detail in their questions and replies, the hosts tend to meet that challenge and ramp up as well.

As for the show length, they have been informed by their local broadcaster that all shows (not just The Atheist Experience) are going to be given a maximum of a 1 hour long time slot. It is possible that they may be able to get a second 1 hour slot probably at some other time. Regardless, they will have to change the format of the show.

If you want to see some shorter clips, browse YouTube by searching for atheist experience. Most clips are between 5 and 15 minutes. If you want some recommendations that are specifically about one aspect of philosophy or another, just ask me and I’ll see what I can find. They tend to cover everything and have been doing this since 1997, most of the time once a week. Not all shows are worth it, though some are very thought provoking.


ernest carl October 9, 2010 at 4:24 am

since 1997!? I was only 11 years old back then, reading my numerous bible story books. Was I happier back then? I don’t know.

Speaking of not knowing: when my psychotherapist asked me about why I couldn’t remember much about my childhood, she suggested that maybe I have ‘unwanted, painful memories’. Repressed memories? Hah! sounds ridiculous to me… Then again, religious brainwashing might have been part of the culprit considering I did have frequent religion-related nightmares. The most fear inducing of all the books was Revelation, of course. Surprise2x: a year after I quit religion, my (once regular) nightmares stopped altogether.


Hermes October 9, 2010 at 10:11 am

Yep. A few of the people on the show weren’t atheists at the time either. Matt Dilluhunty, for example, was an evangelical who at one point considered going to a seminary to become a preacher.

On nightmares; the last one I had was when I was a kid. I don’t know if it was before or after I decided that theism was bogus, but some sleep related issues are frequently tied to religious beliefs so I’m not surprised that your nightmares went away.

On old memories; If you want to remember, focus on ideas that are non-verbal. For example, how an object felt in your hands, a song or some other familiar sound, or a smell. It may take some effort to remember those tactile objects/sounds/smells, but doing that may trigger some memories. Conversely, you might be able to dig some of them up by writing rapidly about any of the above sensations without censoring or editing yourself as you write. (Note that you may also just write down nonsense or inaccurate ‘memories’.)

Warning: People think that they have accurate memories, especially about things they think a lot about. This is not true. In video terms, memory is analog and lossy. When you remember something, part of that remembrance is lost as you re-store the event.


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